Ah, Istanbul. Dünyadaki en sevdiğim şehir.
I’ve written time and time again about my love for this incomparable city, so I shan’t bore you again with mindless musings about Istanbul here. Before we dive into this year’s vegan travel guide, a few notes:
- I was in Istanbul for all of 72 hours ahead of a my trip to London (updated guide coming soon, I promise), so this isn’t the most comprehensive of posts. Given the brevity of my trip, I didn’t get to hit all of the spots I’ve been carefully bookmarking over the years, so to that end I will leave a list of vegan and vegan-friendly eateries I’ve wanted to visit at the end of this post.
- This was my first solo trip to Istanbul, and while daunting at first, it was an incredible experience. I got my very first tattoo(!), learned how to navigate the in’s and out’s of Galata without google Maps, and spoke only Turkish about 80% of the time.
- I had some not-so-stellar experiences at eateries that are typically highly rated amongst vegan travelers – I have included them because I believe taste is highly subjective and for all I know they could have just been having an “off” day. I’ve also linked to HappyCow listings where available, so be sure to read further reviews if you’re on the fence about visiting any place in particular.
Enough chatter – onwards with the guide!
Finding a good vegan breakfast in Istanbul isn’t the easiest of feats – but if you’re near the Galata area, then Kave6 has got you covered.
Their vegan kahvealti (vegan breakfast) features a selection of vegan cornbreads, warmed simit, and vegan cheddar over a bed of fresh mediterranean greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. On the side are a selection of dips including hummus, tahini and carrob molasses spread, spicy red pepper paste as well as some dried apricots, nuts and seeds.
All served with a glass of piping hot red tea, of course.
Kahve6 is located on Kılıçali Paşa Mahallesi, Anahtar Sokak, No 13/A, Beyoğlu, İstanbul. Open daily from 9:30 to 21:30. | HappyCow listing
An honourable mention also goes to Galata Kitchen, who also serve a vegan breakfast with nut cheese, fresh and sautéed veg and a vegan crepe.
I should note that they accidentally served me an egg-white omelette made with lactose-free milk – but quickly corrected the error and replaced it with the aforementioned crepe. In all honesty, I was a little disappointed in the quality of the food here, as I remember it being much better when I visited in 2016.
Galata Kitchen is located on Tatar Beyi Sk 9, Beyoglu. Open daily from 09:00 – 22:00. | HappyCow listing
This one is a bit of a cheat – as I actually visited Bi Nevi Deli for a combined lunch/dinner after I got my tattoo (it took longer than I anticipated) – but I would definitely name it as an ideal dining spot no matter that time of day!
I started off with a glass of their house-made Kombucha which was incredibly refreshing, tart and flavorful.
For my mains, I opted for the Summer Mexican Bowl – which was a wonderful medley of greens, black bean and red quinoa koftas, a spicy tomato salsa, black beans, carrots and a cashew sour cream.
I also couldn’t resist oredering their infamous vegan Kumru – a plant-based riff on what I understand is a Turkish classic from Çeşme, a coastal town on the Aegean.
This baby is a combination of melted cheddar cashew cheese, smoked seitan sausage, and fresh tomatoes on a special chickpea bread.
I could’ve eaten this all summer long.
Bi Nevi is by far my favourite vegan eatery in Istanbul. Not only is all of their food insanely delicious and wonderfully wholesome, it’s run by two incredibly passionate Turkish women, one of whom (Belkis), I’ve been following online since 2014. I absolutely adore her ethos and innovation when it comes to plant-based cooking, and will never pass up an opportunity to try her creations.
Bi Nevi Deli is located on Dilhayat Sokak No: 10/1, Etiler. Open everyday from 11:00 – 21:30. | Website
On a more traditional note – I ventured into Beyoglu to try the much talked about Vegan Istanbul. Promising to serve plant-based versions of all the vegan turkish classics, this casual eatery operates on a pile-your-plate-high basis, giving you a selection of dishes from behind a display case.
I tried a little bit of everything – some stew with meat and peas, fasulye, vegan manti (read: turkish ravioli), and an eggplant stew. I also sampled some of their mucver, a zucchini patty typically made using eggs – and one of my favourite Turkish classics, Mercimek Koftesi (red lentil kofta).
If I’m totally honest, the food for me was a bit hit and miss here. Some of it was a little too greasy for my tastes, while other items were truly delicious. If you’re in the mood for home-style cooking, this is the place to find it.
On a particularly rainy day in Istanbul (the only one of my entire trip) – I happened to cross paths with a friend and her husband. What was initially supposed to be a solo-day ended up being a whirlwind adventure across town, in and out of art galleries, the rain-stained streets of Istiklal Caddesi, a sleepy little bar and eventually – a spectacular pizzeria in Arnavutkoy by the name of Piccola.
Having spent a couple of weeks eating nothing but pizza and pasta in Italy last fall, I can solemnly say this was some of the best pizza I’d had since.
The hand-tossed dough is completely vegan, and the restaurant owner was more than happy to serve me a vegan pizza piled high with seasonal veg and just a smattering of rich tomato sauce. Can’t recommend this place enough – it’s small but filled to the brim with character and delightfully charming.
Piccola Pizzeria is located in Arnavutköy Mahallesi, Sebzeci Bayram Sokak, No:16, Beşiktas. Open everyday from 12:00 – 21:30| Zomato listing
For my last meal in Istanbul, I went back to Community Kitchen – once home to the Vegan Iskender I raved about in 2016.
The special du jour was a kebap platter on top of rice with potatoes and a simple salad on the side.
The seitan was as flavorful as ever, but the rest of the dish (as well as the lacklustre service) left something to be desired.
Community Kitchen is located on Kumbaracı Yokuşu No: 57/ A Beyoğlu, 34425. Open every day fro 12:00 – 23:00. | Happycow listing
A big fan of AirBnB’s “experiences” section – I was over the moon when I stumbled across Burcu’s vegan food walk on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. We met up at a crowded coffee shop near the Kadikoy ferry station around lunchtime and headed off for a day of vegan-venturing in Moda.
First up – pickle tasting in the bazaar.
Followed by a visit to a popular charcuterie who greeted us warmly and served us a small selection of his outstanding vegan meze (but not before trying to marry me off to his youngest son!)
Samphire, sauteed spinach, artichokes, fava dip, eggplant puree, red lentil kofta and a spicy sauteed vegetable medley.
The kind of fare I would kill to be able to serve at my next dinner party – tantalizingly tasty and bursting full of flavor.
Next we had some cig kofte (pronounced chee kofteh) – spicy red lentil and bulghur patties wrapped in lettuce with a squeeze of lemon juice. Although you can find Cig Kofte shops all over Istanbul, Burcu swore this one is the best on the Asian side, and after sampling it I am inclined to believe her.
Soon afterwards, a sweet treat was in order, in the form of Lokma.
Doughy, heavenly sugar-infused bites of fried dough (that somehow weren’t greasy in the slightest?!). We shared this plate between us, and zero guilt was felt.
Next up – vegan lahmacun! Paper thin dough with a roasted red pepper spread and fresh veg to boot.
Our following stop was a “ev yemekleri” (home-cooked foods) style eatery. They change their veg options up daily, and I was lucky to be able to sample their fresh Bamia (okra) stew.
Almost as good as my mom’s. Almost.
Walking past a fruit vendor in the bazaar – I couldn’t help but pick up a couple of fresh nectarines to snack on later – the small was practically intoxicating.
We ended our tour with a vegan chocolate cake from a nearby bakery and a bowl of authentic matcha tea from the delightfully eccentric Kanca Cafe.
In the interest of protecting the integrity of Burcu’s tour, I haven’t included full details of the route she took me on. What I can say, is that I would highly recommend this experience as it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. She is so sweet and hospitable, and chatting to her as we explored the streets of Moda on foot was a treat.
Book Burcu’s Vegan Food Walk here via AirBnb Experiences – it can also be altered to be vegetarian and gluten-free if you’re so inclined.
After my time with Burcu, I came across Vegan Bakkal, an all-vegan boutique selling everything from snacks to specialty products and toiletries. They also have a small counter where they serve some hot sandwiches and pastries.
I picked up a few snacks for my journey as well as a bottle of local ‘booch.
Another fave was Vitruta – a fabulous little boutique that stocked a combination of homegrown Turkish brands and sleek modern Scandanavian labels. While not all the items were strictly sustainable and/or ethically made – the boutique features a carefully curated mix of well-made items from a range of smaller labels and is a far cry from your typical fast-fashion department store.
Another gem was Miniko Vintage – a gorgeous little vintage store with the most beautiful accessories and classic pieces.
If you’re looking for affordable yet safe and secure accommodation that’s also centrally located, I’d definitely recommend Snog Rooms and Suites in Galata. Alternatively, Odda Apartments in Cukurcuma are also great, especially if you’d like an option with a small kitchenette.
Other vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants
- Vegan Narsist
- Muhtelif Mekan
- Poutine Moda
- Firuze Meyhane
- Apartman Yenikoy
- Minoa Bookstore and Cafe
- Delicatessen Istanbul